Tag Archives: Babe Ruth

Lost Pictures–1924 House of David

26 Apr

hod

A 1924 promotional photo of the House of David baseball team, from the Israelite House of David, the Adventist sect based in Benton Harbor, Michigan.  The photo was distributed to Midwest newspapers during the barnstorming team’s tour that season.

Promotional materials promised, “Some wonderful baseball players are on the House of David team,” including Jess Tally, “The bearded Babe Ruth.”  And “Cookie Hannaford the phenomenal first sacker.  “The team claimed Tally had hit 34 home runs in 132 games in 1923, and 11 through the team’s first 31 games of 1924.

 

tally

Tally

ezra

Hannaford

The team always claimed that several members of the club, “Rejected major league jobs, refusing to clip their whiskers.”

Dick Jess, who had managed Babe Ruth’s 1921 barnstorming tour, was the promoter for the House of David tour, and described the team as:

“Bewhiskered, barberless, shaveless baseballists, and foes of the barber trust.”

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“I Haven’t Heard of any Club Owners Refusing to accept the Patronage of Colored People”

24 Apr

Damon Runyon called Dan Parker, “The most consistency brilliant of all sportswriters.”

Parker wrote a column and was sports editor of The New York Daily Mirror from 1926 until the paper folded in 1963.

 

danparker

Dan Parker

 

Parker often used his column, “Broadway Bugle” to agitate for change in sports.  He crusaded against fixed wrestling matches, disreputable “Racetrack touts,” and the influence of organized crime in boxing—these columns led to several investigations, the disbanding of the corrupt International Boxing Club, and several criminal convictions, including Frankie Carbo, a member of the Lucchese crime family.

Parker was also an early crusader for the integration of professional baseball.  In 1933, Parker lent his name and influence to The Pittsburgh Courier’s “Crusade for comments from baseball celebrities” who supported integration.

Parker wrote to Chester Washington, The Courier’s sports editor:

“I don’t see why the mere accident of birth should prove a bar to the Negro baseball players who aspire to places in organized baseball.  I haven’t heard of any club owners refusing to accept the patronage of colored people. Rutgers didn’t draw any color line when Paul Robeson proved himself the best man for the place he was fighting for on the football team.  The All-American selectors didn’t go into a huddle about Paul’s complexion when they picked him for a place on the mythical eleven, football’s highest honor.

 

robeson

Paul Robeson

 

“The U.S. Olympic Committee didn’t consider Eddie Tolan’s or Ralph Metcalfe’s lineage when they were picking the strongest sprinting team possible for last summer’s games.  If the Negro athlete is accepted without question in college football and amateur track and field events, which are among the higher types of sports, I fail to see why baseball, which is as much a business as it is a sport, should draw the line.

“In my career as a sports writer, I have never encountered a colored athlete who didn’t conduct himself in a gentlemanly manner and who didn’t have a better idea of sportsmanship than many of his white brethren.  By all means, let the Negro ballplayer play in organized baseball.  As a kid, I saw a half dozen Cuban players break into organized baseball in the old Connecticut League.  I refer to players like (Armando) Marsans, (Rafael) Alameda, (Al) Cabrera and others (Almeida, Marsans, and Cabrera played with the New Britain Perfectos in the Connecticut State League in 1910). I recall the storm of protest from the One Hundred Per Centers at that time but I also recall that all the Cubans conducted themselves in such a manner that they reflected nothing but credit on themselves and those who favored admitting them to baseball’s select circle.

“The only possible objection I can find to lifting the color line in baseball is that the Yankees might then lose their great mascot.  I refer to my good friend, (Bill) “Bojangles” Robinson, who chased away the Yankee jinx last season with his famous salt-shaker. The Yanks didn’t draw the color line on their World Series special to Chicago for Bill accompanied us on the trip.  On the way back, at every town where we stopped for a few minutes, the crowd hollered for Babe Ruth. Babe would make an appearance and then introduce Bojangles who would tell a few stories, go into his dance and make the fans forget about baseball as he ‘shuffled off to Buffalo.’

 

bojangles

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson

 

“I read your paper every week and find your sports pages well edited and thoroughly enjoyable.”

Parker’s letter was released shortly after Heywood Broun of The New York World-Telegram made waves at the 1933 Baseball Writers Association dinner when he said:

“I can see no reason why Negroes should not come into the National and American Leagues.”

Broun and Parker were joined by another prominent sports writer, Gordon Mackay, who had been sports editor at three Philadelphia papers—The Enquirer, The Press and The Public Ledger—who wrote to The Courier:

“I believe that there are scores of Negroes who would make good in the big minors and in the majors.  Take some of the men I used to know—John Henry Lloyd, Rube Foster, Big (Louis) SantopPhil Cockrell, Biz Mackey and others—why, Connie Mack or the Phillies would have been strengthened with any of them on the best teams they ever had.”

The Courier’s Washington was hopeful that the sentiments of three powerful sportswriters would have some impact:

“Fair-minded and impartial writers like Broun, Mackey, and Parker can do much towards breaking down the barricaded doors of opportunity to capable colored ballplayers which lead into the greatest American game’s charmed circle.  And we doff our derby to ‘em.”

Lost Pictures–Ty Cobb’s “Outburst of Historic Art”

30 Sep

After the 1916 season, Ty Cobb spent four weeks on Long Island shooting the first feature film starring a major league ballplayer.

The story for “Somewhere in Georgia” was written by Grantland Rice, then of The New York Tribune.

Ty Cobb and leading lady Elsie MacLeod

Ty Cobb and leading lady Elsie MacLeod

Rice said of the film:

“For the matter of twelve years Tyrus Raymond Cobb, the first citizen of Georgia, has proved that when it comes to facing pitchers he has no rival…It may have been that facing such pitchers as (Ed) Walsh, (Walter) Johnson, (Babe) Ruth and others has acclimated Ty to facing anything under the sun, even a moving picture camera.  At any rate, when Director George Ridgewell, of the Sunbeam Motion Picture Company, lined Ty up in various attitudes before the camera he was astounded at the way the star ballplayer handled the job.

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

“These paragraphs should be enough to break the news gently that Cobb, wearying of competition with (Tris) Speaker, (Joe) Jackson and (Eddie) Collins through so many years, has decided to go out and give battle to Douglas Fairbanks and Francis X. Bushman.  Not for any extended campaign, but for just one outburst of historic art.”

Director George Ridgeway said of his star:

“The most noticeable thing about Cobb’s work was this:  I’ve never had to tell him more than once what I wanted done.  I had an idea that I would have to take half my time drilling him for various scenes in regard to expression and position. But, on the contrary, he seemed to have an advance hunch as to what was wanted, and the pictures will show that as a movie star Ty is something more than a .380 hitter.  In addition to this, he is a horse plus and elephant for work. Twelve hours a day is nothing to him, and when the rest of us are pretty well worn out Cobb is ready for the next scene. I believe the fellow could work twenty hours a day for a week and still be ready for overtime.”

Rice noted that Cobb balked at just thing during the filming:

“Ty was willing enough to engage in mortal combat with anywhere from two to ten husky villains.  He was willing enough ti dive headfirst for the plate or to jump through a window, but when it came to one of our best known pastimes, lovemaking, he balked with decided abruptness.

“Despite the attractiveness and personal appeal of the heroine, Miss Elsie MacLeod, Ty was keen enough to figure ahead, not what the spectators might think of it, but what Mrs. Tyrus Raymond Cobb of Augusta think. The love making episode, therefore, while more or less thickly interspersed, had to be handled in precisely the proper way to meet Ty’s bashful approval”

The "bashful" star

The “bashful” star

The New York Tribune claimed that “More than 100 motion picture scenarios” were presented to Cobb before he agreed to appear in Rice’s.  The paper said, “(H)e would not, he emphatically stated, appear in anything that was not compatible with both his dignity and his standing in the baseball world.”

The Ty Cobb character in “Somewhere in Georgia” is a bank clerk who plays ball for the local baseball team—he, along with the bank’s cashier are vying for the love of  the banker’s daughter.  Cobb is scouted and offered a contract by the Detroit Tigers but the banker’s daughter tells him he must choose between baseball and her.  At the same time, the cashier, Cobb’s rival for the banker’s daughter, bets against the home team and plots to have Cobb kidnapped by “a gang of thugs.”

Cobb accosted by thugs

Cobb accosted by thugs

After being held hostage in a cabin, Cobb escapes with the help of “a local farm boy,” and:

”Commandeering a mule team, Ty succeeds in reaching home just in time to make a spectacular play and save the game for his team.  He then turns the tables on the cashier, wins the girl and winds things up in a manner appealing to ball fans and picture fans alike.”

Cobb escaping with the aid of a local farm boy.

Cobb escaping with the aid of a local farm boy.

Billed in advertisements as “A thrilling drama of love and baseball in six innings,” no prints of the six-reel film survive, but Cobb received better reviews than most of his brethren who attempted a film career.

After the film’s release in 1917, The Tribune said:

“(A)s an actor Ty Cobb is a huge success.  In fact, he is so good that he shows all the others (in the cast) up.”

When the film premiered at the Detroit Opera House in August of 1917 The Detroit Free Press said:

Ad for the film in Detroit

Ad for the film in Detroit

“(The film) is not only a most interesting baseball picture, but it gives views of “The Georgia Peach” that one does not see at Navin Filed…One seldom gets a chance to take a peep at Ty in civilian clothes and he shows himself to be as much at home in this story of love and romance into which a few baseball surroundings have been woven as he is on the diamond.  He makes a pleasing film hero, wooing and winning the bank president’s daughter and performing other exploits that one would expect from Douglas Fairbanks and his like.”

“Tell the Babe to Choke Up on his Bat”

15 Aug

While Babe Ruth kept a low profile—or as low a profile as he could—in Sudbury, Massachusetts, and occasionally New York, during the winter of 1922, he received hitting advice from Christy Mathewson.

Ruth struggled—at least for Ruth, 35/96/.315—all season after starting the year suspended by Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis for barnstorming during the 1921 off-season.

Babe Ruth

Ruth

Mathewson was in New York in December promoting the sale of “Christmas Seals for the aid of others stricken with tuberculosis.”  He talked to Thomas Cummiskey, writer for the Universal Service syndicate:

“’Tell the Babe to choke up on his bat a little when pitchers start tossing slow balls at him next season, and to smash some of the floaters into left field.  If he does, he’ll cross up a plan to stop his home run hitting.”

Cummiskey noted that the New York Giants pitchers shut Ruth down during the 1922 World Series—Ruth was 2 for 17 with 1 RBI—because they “slow-balled him to death.”

As for Mathewson:

“(He) saw the series, the first games he witnessed in two years because of his battle with tuberculosis that kept him at Saranac Lake.  As always, he was a close observer of everything.

“Once he says he saw Ruth choke up on his bat, instead of making his ‘follow-through’ swing at the ball for a homer, and cross up the Giants by hitting the ball to left field.

“’He should do this every time a slow ball comes up,’ Matty declares.  ‘Next season, it is a 100 to 1 shot, the American League pitchers will try to stop his home run hitting with slow balls.  If Babe chokes up a little, as I saw him do once in the series, he’ll hit them, it’s a cinch.  Then the next thing you know, the pitchers will stop throwing them.’“

Cummiskey said:

“Matty paid Ruth the compliment of ‘being a natural ball player and wise enough to realize this.’  The tip was given for ‘old time’s sake.’  Matty wants the Babe to stay in the spotlight and ‘hit them out as of old.’”

Cummiskey asked Mathewson if he felt “Use of the ‘lively ball,’ and the fact that pitchers are not permitted to rough the surface of a shiny new ball (was) tough on the pitchers.”

Mathewson, 1922

Mathewson, 1922

Mathewson said:

“Well, yes it is.  It is tough to see the ball banged out of the lot and around so much.  But they can learn how to pitch it.  They did when it came to Babe, didn’t they?”

He also said, “(I)n the old days if a batter swung like the home run leaders of the present day they would be fined.”

As for Mathewson’s health:

“Outwardly, he is robust and healthy.  He weighs 210 pounds, has a healthy color, his hand clasp is strong, his eyes clear.  Occasionally he is allowed to smoke a cigarette, but not to inhale.  Except for a slight slowness in his walk, as he tires easily, he appears ‘fine.’

‘’I haven’t a touch of T.B. anymore,’ he said.  “The X-ray and the stethoscope reveal no signs of it.  I am now a full exercise man; I can exercise all I want.  Until a few weeks ago I was restricted to twenty minutes a day.’

“He tires more easily than a man of his outwardly fine condition would indicate because he ‘has to get along on one cylinder as yet.’  This, he explained means that ‘one lung is flat but is receiving air treatment which is expected to make it function.’”

Ruth, of course, bounced back just fine from his disappointing 1922 season and World Series.  He hit .393 with 41 home runs and 130 RBIs and hit .368 with three home runs in the Yankees’ World Series victory over the Giants.

Mathewson did not bounce back from tuberculosis and died on the disease in 1925.

The Babe’s “Exile”

12 Aug

After a disappointing 1922 season, Babe Ruth vowed to reform; or as Davis Walsh, sports editor for The International News Service put it:

“A few days hence the worthy Mr. Ruth will say farewell to Broadway, its night life and the scurrilous journals which persist in printing his escapades under cover of the subtle innuendo, and proceed in leisure to his farm at Sudbury, Massachusetts, for the winter.  That is the program he has outlined for himself.  Whether he will care to follow it as religiously as his chastened mood of the present dictates is another matter.”

Edward Thierry, of The Newspaper Enterprise Association, was one of the reporters who traveled to Sudbury that winter to see if Ruth had stuck to the plan:

“This is where you come if you want to see Babe Ruth in his farmer makeup.”

But Thierry said Ruth wasn’t always in Sudbury that winter as promised:

“’Hear you’ve given up the bright lights and are living the simple life?’ we said, coming in out of the cold and joining him before the fire in the big farmhouse sitting room.

“Ruth grunted assent and yawned.

“’Lonely, isn’t it?’ we suggested.

‘”Some,’ said the slugger.  ‘Not so bad though.  You see, I run down to New York every Monday—it makes the week go faster!’

“Ruth said he hadn’t missed a Monday yet; by the time he gets home from New York the week is half gone.  He drives down usually is his $9,600 limousine and is proud of the fact that he covers the 200 miles from Sudbury, which is 20 miles west of Boston, in five a half hours.

“The farm comprises 160 acres and didn’t produce anything much last season.  Ruth said he hadn’t decided what to do with it; but he’s going to have some chicken coops built this winter.”

Ruth told Thierry:

“’The air’s good around here,’ he said, ‘there’s some fishing in Pratt’s pond, and a little hunting.  Not much to do but chop wood.  I’ve done some of that.’”

Ruth fishing in Sudbury

Ruth fishing in Sudbury

Thierry said:

“The home run king was wearing a coonskin cap, a blue flannel shirt and sweater, old trousers and high-laced boots.  He looked to be in good shape, not so fat as he appeared in a baseball uniform last season.

“’I’ve taken some off the waist line,’ he said.  ‘It used to be 45.  Now it’s 39.  Haven’t weighed lately though.’

“Aside from some wood chopping and limousine work, Ruth’s chief exercise is bowling.  He goes over to Waltham some evenings to bowl.

“The house is one of those monstrosities created by building haphazard additions to the original structure.  Ruth said he was going to have a sun-parlor built on one end, and hardwood floors put down throughout.

Thierry said Ruth was attended to by a couple who cared for the property, a cook and a chauffeur.

“Mrs. (Helen) Ruth, swathed in a fur coat, was leaving in the machine for a day’s trip to Boston when we arrived…The baby, Dorothy Helen, who Ruth says will be two in February, came running when Ruth called: ‘Dot!  Come to papa!’

Ruth with "Dot" in Sudbury

Ruth with “Dot” in Sudbury

Ruth seems very proud of the baby, who looks such a tiny mite beside his tremendous bulk, and he spends hours playing with her.”

By late December, Ruth sent a letter to Tillinghast L’Hommedieu “Cap” Huston, who was about to retire and sell his share in the club to co-owner Jacob Rupert:

“I don’t care where the fences are.  I can hit ‘em anywhere.”

Ruth also added that his weight was down to “210 and dropping.”

Part-time behaving, and wood chopping and bowling and “Dot” paid off.  Ruth hit .393, with 41 home runs and 130 RBI for the 1923 World Series Champions.

Robert Edgren, most famous for his drawings from Cuba which appeared in Hearst Newspapers in 1898 and helped fuel public support of the Spanish-American War , drew his take on Ruth's winter of 1922 activities in The New York Evening Journal.

Robert Edgren, most famous for his 1898 drawings from Cuba in Hearst Newspapers that helped fuel public support for the Spanish-American War, drew his take on Ruth’s winter of 1922 activities in The New York Evening Journal

Lost Pictures–An Off Day

10 Aug

ruthfosterIn August of 1917, the Boston Red Sox were in the midst of a pennant race;  they battled the Chicago White Sox all season long and the race remained tight through August.  But there was always time for fishing, wrote Paul Purman, of The Newspaper Enterprise Association;

“An off day sounds just as good to a big league ballplayer as to anyone else, especially if the off day isn’t rainy, for on rainy days they generally have to hang around the hotel lobbies, which isn’t very good sport anytime.

“A number of the Red Sox are ardent fishermen and on off days you may usually find them at some lake pursuing the elusive bass.

“old clothes, and in some cases, almost no clothes are in order on those Izaak Walton excursionists, but the day is a big rest and the players are usually ready for a strenuous time on the ball field the next day.

“Babe Ruth is one of the club’s most enthusiastic sportsmen.  In the summer he fishes at every opportunity, although he doesn’t forget to report on the days he is to pitch as that other southpaw, Rube Waddell used to do.  Rube Foster and Harry Hooper are other members of the team who prefer fishing to other recreations.”

bosstaff

Foster, left, with Red Sox pitchers Carl Mays, Ernie Shore, Ruth, and Dutch Leonard.

The Red Sox finished in second place, nine games behind the White Sox.

 

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things: Predictions

18 May

Salaries

Ed Barrow, general manager of the New York Yankees, was sure of one thing in 1930, and according to Joe Williams of The New York Telegram, he was so sure of it his declaration “caused the window panes to shiver in the frenzy of a maddened Simoon.”

Joe Williams

Joe Williams

The Yankees had signed Babe Ruth to the largest contract ever, and Williams asked, “whether baseball would ever see another $80,000 hired hand.”

“’No, you will never hear of another ballplayer getting that kind of money,’ said the gentleman who functions as the watchdog of the treasury of the richest ballclub in the game.”

Ed Barrow

Ed Barrow

Ruth being Ruth, he said, would ensure that no player would ever be paid as much:

“’Even if another Ruth came along he wouldn’t be able to command it, because he would be just another Ruth, and that means he would not be a novelty.  He came along at a time when the receptivity of the fans welcomed a change from few-run games to batting orgies.  It was a situation into which he fitted perfectly.’

“’It isn’t possible for a similar situation to occur twice in the course of baseball.  All the great hitters in the future are going to suffer by comparison to Ruth, and this is going to operate against them as drawing cards.  Nobody prefers a copy of the original.’”

Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth

Barrow remained general manager of the Yankees until 1945, and baseball economics combined with the Depression and then a World War allowed his prediction to hold true throughout his career, but just four years later, his former club proved him wrong when Joe DiMaggio became baseball’s first $100,000 player.

Night Games

In August of 1930, Al Munro Elias, of the Elias Baseball Bureau, had some predictions about night baseball that he shared with The Brooklyn Eagle:

“’Night baseball (in the minor leagues) is succeeding now because it is a novelty.  It will prosper as long as the novelty lasts, that is if the novelty doesn’t last too long.  If it does, I fear there won’t be enough players to satisfy the customers’ desires.  Make no mistake about it, the night game is hard on the players.  The pitchers especially are going to feel the difference.  The old throwing arms need the hot sun.  Legs of all players’ need the sun…Night baseball isn’t real baseball.  Real baseball needs the sun and plenty of it.”

Al Munro Elias

Al Munro Elias

His brother, and partner, Walter B. Elias, who had yet to see a night game, had another concern:

“Now it’s a novelty and the fans flock to it…Night games can’t begin until 8 o’clock or so, and now while it is a novelty the men come to it, but wait until you hear the holler that the missus will put up when her husband stays out several nights to go to the ball game.”

Five years later the novelty expanded to the major leagues.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #17

10 Feb

Honus Wagner on Integration, 1939

As part of a series of articles on the long overdue need to integrate major league baseball, Wendell Smith of The Pittsburgh Courier interviewed many of baseball’s biggest names.  One of the most vocal proponents was Honus Wagner.

Wagner

Wagner

The then 65-year-old Pittsburgh Pirates coach told Smith:

“Most of the great Negro players I played against have passed on, but I remember many of them well.

Rube Foster was one of the greatest pitchers of all time.  He was the smartest pitcher I have ever seen in all my years of baseball.

“Another great player was John Henry Lloyd.  They called him ‘The Black Wagner’ and I was always anxious to see him play.

“Well, one day I had an opportunity to go see him play.  After I saw him I felt honored that they should name such a great ballplayer after me, honored.”

Rube Foster

Rube Foster

Wagner said the “Homestead Grays had some of the best ballplayers I have ever seen.”

John Henry lloyd

John Henry lloyd

Although he misidentified one of them as “lefty,” Wagner also said of William Oscar Owens, a pitcher and outfielder for the Grays and several other clubs:

“He was a great pitcher and one of the best hitters I have ever seen.”

More recently, Wagner said Oscar CharlestonJasper “Jap” Washington, Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson “could have made the grade easily had they been accepted.”

Wagner concluded:

“Yes, down through the years, I have seen any number of Negro players who should have been in big league baseball.”

 

Uniform Criticism, 1923

The Decatur (IL) Herald found the state of baseball uniforms worthy of an editorial in March of 1923:

“Pictures of baseball players in training reveal that the season of 1923 has brought no marked change in the style of uniform.  It is quite as baggy and unbecoming as ever.

“Baseball players refer to their costumes as ‘monkey suits,’ a term that is supposed to establish some sort of connection with the cut of the affairs worn by the little animals that pick up the organ grinder’s pennies.  However, that may be, no sensible man imagines that his uniform accentuates his good looks.  It is purely a utility costume and smartness has no place in it.”

ruthandgehrig

Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth in their “baggy and unbecoming” 1923 uniforms

 

The paper was most concerned about the uniform’s tendency to make players look foolish and appear to be out of shape:

“A collarless blouse with an awkward length sleeve bags at the belt in a way to emphasize abdominal prominence instead of athletic trimness about the loins.  Loose knickerbockers gathered at the knee resemble the khaki uniforms of the Spanish-American War period in their voluminousness and wrinkles…A cap fitting close about the head and bringing ears into striking relief is the climatic feature of this make-up.

“Underneath this covering of dirty gray or brown there are doubtless lithe limbs and well developed muscles, but the spectator doesn’t see them.  The baseball costume doubtless serves its purpose, it fails lamentably to make the wearer look like an athlete.”

No Women Allowed, 1912

Coming out of the 1912 winter meetings in Chicago, The New York Globe said:

“Nothing doing for suffragettes in the American League!  Not even if they march to the meeting.  They may be making great progress in their cause, but there will not be any Mrs. Brittons in the Ban Johnson organization.”

“Mrs. Britton” was Helene Hathaway Britton, who became owner of the St. Louis Cardinals after the death of her uncle Stanley Robison.

Helene Hathaway Britton with children Marie and Frank

Helene Hathaway Britton with children Marie and Frank

 “A decision was reached that no woman can own a club or even attend an American League meeting.  According to the owners it was a good decision, as they did not want to get into the same mess of trouble which the National League has encountered since one of its clubs fell into the hands of a woman.  Which shows the American League is constantly being benefitted by the experience of the National.”

The “trouble” referred to tension between Britton and Manager Roger Bresnahan, who she had given a five-year contract before the 1912 season.  The two feuded after the team struggled and Britton rejected numerous overtures from Bresnahan to buy the team.  She eventually fired the manager and a very public battle ensued.  Sinister “Dick” Kinsella, who along with Bill Armour comprised the Cardinals’ scouting staff, resigned claiming Bresnahan was “Not treated right.” Armour remained with the club and a settlement was finally reached when Bresnahan was named manager of the Chicago Cubs.

bresnahanandtoy

Bresnahan moved on to the Cubs

One American League owner told The Globe:

“I think it will benefit our league to keep the women out of baseball.  It is almost impossible to do so, but we must keep them out of baseball.  A woman owning a ballclub is about the limit, and the American League made a great move when they decided to bar female magnates.  Votes for the women may be alright, and we do not blame them for battling for them, but it would be a terrible thing to have them in baseball as owners.  It would mean the ruining of the game.”

Grace Comiskey, who became owner of the Chicago White Sox after the death of her husband John Louis Comiskey in 1939–she was forced to go to court to get control of the club from The First National Bank of Chicago; as trustees of the estate, the bank wanted to sell the team because there was no specific instruction in the will that his widow should take control.

She became the American League’s first woman owner.

The game appears not to have been “ruined” during her tenure.

Cicotte’s Knuckleball

8 Feb

With the Chicago White Sox holding onto a slim lead in the American league race, John Brinsley Sheridan of The St. Louis Globe-Democrat said they were in first place because of the pitch he called “(T)he hobo of balldom, it’s course, even when under control, being entirely beyond the influence of the pitcher, so far as the break at the plate is concerned…It is a hobo!”

The “hobo” was the knuckleball of White Sox pitcher Ed Cicotte—never mind Toad Ramsey’s claim to the pitch, Sheridan said it was all Cicotte’s:

 

Ed Cicotte

Ed Cicotte

“It is a freak delivery; this knuckleball, Cicotte invented it, and is its greatest exponent.  Many other pitchers have tried it, some with more or less success.  Earl Hamilton did wonderful work with it in 1912.  Then he lost control of it.  Many others tried it. They use it now and then to this day, but Cicotte is the only pitcher who admits that the knuckleball is responsible for a greater part of his success.”

Cicotte talked to Sheridan about the pitch after he threw a no-hitter against the St. Louis Browns earlier that season:

“I use it very frequently during a game, I vary pace on it, and very frequently I do not ask it to break at all.  I throw it with some rotation.  When I know a batter is going to hit—when I know and he knows that I must lay a strike over the plate—I pitch the ‘knuckle ball’ with as little rotation as possible, so that it may break as well as possible.  The different paces deceive the batter, and the break simply makes it impossible to hit safely save by the greatest fluke.

“The spitball has but one pace—fast.  The ‘fadeaway’ had but one pace—medium slow.  I can pitch the knuckleball at any pace from medium fast to dead slow.

Cicotte's grip

Cicotte’s grip

“I began using this ball when I was a kid.  It was always impossible to hit, but I found it very hard to obtain control of it. It was not until I joined Boston in 1908 that I began to get control of the ‘knuckle ball.’  Even then it evaded me for months at a time.  When I got it going right I was hard to beat.  Even now I often lose control of it.”

Cicotte, who would end 1917 with a league-leading 28 wins and 1.53 ERA, claimed his weight was a factor in his control of the pitch:

“I joined Chicago in 1912 and began to do better with the difficult delivery.  I had trouble, however, with my general control.  I had been a slim kid, but I was growing fat.  I weighed 135 when I had my first engagement with the Sault Ste. Marie team, way back in 1903.  I weighed 190 pounds in 1912.  Since that time I have tried to keep it down to 170 pounds, but I find it hard to do so.

“This year I made a special effort to reduce my weight.  I am down to 170 pounds, lighter than I have been in 10 seasons; I find that my control is better than it has ever been.  To this I attribute my early success this season.  You see, when I am fat I can’t get my arm to follow through with my pitch.  My upper arm hits my right breast and won’t go any farther.  Thus, I have been pitching with a short, jerky motion, which is not good for control.”

After an injury-plagued season and 12-19 record in 1918, Cicotte was 50-17 during the regular season in 1919-‘20 before his banishment.   Just two months before his final professional game he shut down Babe Ruth (0-3 with a walk) in front of an overflow crowd of 45,000 in Comiskey Park on August 1.  The crowd said Sy Sanborn of The Chicago Tribune “Left Comiskey Park disappointed because Babe Ruth did not get a home run.”

One of Cicotte’s last great moments with his famous pitch was captured by a Chicago photographer; Ruth looking back at the ball in the catcher Ray Schalk’s mitt, after striking out in the second inning of that game.

Cicotte strikes out Ruth

Cicotte strikes out Ruth

Lost Advertisements-1922 World Series, Lord and Taylor

13 Nov

1922ws

An October 1922 Advertisement for The Men’s Shop at Lord & Taylor.  The ad featured a preview of the World Series–a rematch of the 1921 series–written by William Blythe Hanna of The New York Tribune:

William Blythe Hanna

William Blythe Hanna

“Baseball’s annual capsheaf and climax, the world’s series, beginning today at the Polo Grounds, brings the two New York teams, Giants and Yankees, into conflict again; and it brings together two teams of championship caliber.

“A team having such players and (Art) Nehf, (George “High Pockets”) Kelly, (Frankie) Frisch, (Frank) Snyder, Young (Dave) Bancroft, and Emil (“Irish”) Meusel on its roster cannot be otherwise than first class, for the Giants named are players of the first rank; and a team which includes Everett Scott, Walter Pipp, Wally Schang, Waite Hoyt, Joe Bush and Bob Shawkey, such as the Yankees have, assembles talent of sufficient quantity and quality to be a champion.

“The sterling left-handed pitching of Nehf went far last year to check the hard-hitting Yankees, and the steady catching and handy hitting of Frank Snyder braced the Giants in both attack and defense.  The fielding of the brilliant Frisch, the fielding and batting of Meusel, including a home run, were items of consequence in the Giants’ feat of winning the series from the Yankees after starting out with two defeats.

“The Yankees bring numerous world’s series veterans to the present scrap.  Babe Ruth has been in five, and either as a pitcher or a batter, except last year when he was crippled, a factor of value in each.  Bush and Scott are outstanding world’s series figures, Bush with his effective pitching, Scott with his amazing fielding in times of stress and timely batting.

“Hoyt, last year was the hardest nut the Giants had to crack, and it was no fault of his pitching that the Yankees lost.  He and John Rawlings, Giants’ utility man, and pitcher Phil Douglas, Giants, were the glowing individual figures of the 1921 clash.

“The Man’s Shop extends its greetings to both teams–and hopes the best one will win.”

The Giants repeated, beating the Yankees four games to one–there was also a controversial tie in game 2.

22giants

The Giants